Thursday, April 6, 2017

Hiking and Painting and Musing in Zion National Park

A few weeks back I spent a weekend in Zion Canyon National Park. If you haven't learned by now that I love hiking, you have not been paying attention. If you want to make me happy, just take me outside. Or give me an armful of kittens.. or let me pet your dog... Anyways, that is unrelated. Again I went with Ellie (awesome website here) to paint the landscape and hike and camp. Whether you like any of that stuff or not, everyone needs to visit this incredible place at least once. There are options for all levels of outdoorsy to not outdoorsy at all to see and experience this wonder. And it is a wonder.

The first thing we did when we got there was to do a little exploring. We went to the east side of the canyon via Mount Carmel highway, just outside of the park, and pulled over to the side of the road. We climbed down into the sandy bottom of the dry riverbed and walked. We had to scale a few sandstone walls, dodge the sinking sand, and walk through muddy water but the view was worth it. Plus we were the only ones on the "trail", and that's hard to find in Zion! 

Eventually we reached an odd rock formation that my friend calls the sumo bun. Which it really does look like a hair bun. Sandstone makes odd shaped formations. With all the whorls and rippling lines, I felt like I was on a different planet! Unfortunately we couldn't explore more than that, with the time constraint of meeting with an art gallery. But when I go back again, I will get further on that path! 

Setting up camp that night was super easy. We dispersed camped, which is the best way to camp at national parks, because it's free and on public lands. The next day we hiked Observation point, which is the peak that looks down upon Angel's landing, though the hike isn't nearly as precarious. It's about an 8 mile round-trip hike, and it's best done in the morning, because once afternoon comes around, the trail is in full sunlight and gets very hot. But the view is incredible. You can see south all the way down the length of the canyon past Springdale and beyond. 

We set up and painted on the top of the point, Ellie with her fancy oils and me with my sketchbook and watercolors. But that was for sure one of the hardest scenes I've ever tried to recreate. I'm including my efforts below, but only because I had a great experience. the painting itself didn't quite turn out. 

By the way, if anyone is interested in why I have 'Mitchy Slick' written on the top of the sketchbook page, that the youtube channel of a guy we met while hiking. I've always thought people are at their friendliest when hiking, and that day's hike was no exception. Mitchy Slick and his friend were recording people on his gopro asking for life advice. It was quite entertaining. Just FYI, I don't think the video is up on his channel, and I don't know if it ever will be, but it was cool to meet some new people. It just goes to show that everyone has a story and anyone could be a friend, you just need to open your mouth, and give them a chance. This is something I constantly battle with. Social anxiety is a real thing. I've realized that there is a difference between having nothing to say and being too afraid to speak. People can be quiet for different reasons. I know I have felt both before. But it's hardest when you want or even need to say something and that fear paralyzes you and it feels like making your vocal chords move is the hardest thing you will ever do. And what a relief it is when they finally work, but saying that one thing could leave you shaky and weak and embarrassed for a while after. To all my extraverted friends out there, adopt someone who seems shy as your friend. Being around you will help them to blossom and open up in ways they never thought possible. I'm thankful to all the extraverts that took me under their wing. They know who they are, I hope. Wow, super random tangent. Sorry. Here's a super awkward picture of me just to make things better because I think it's funny. 

After getting back from a hike, don't you just love how exhausted your entire body is? Maybe I'm weird, but I love that feeling. It reminds me of what I can accomplish and that I deserve a giant bacon cheeseburger. That's not what we ate after that hike, unfortunately, but I did get amazing tamales from the Bit'n Spur in Springdale, so I can't complain. 

Later we went to the River walk near the Narrows trailhead and Ellie painted again, while I decided to walk and be contemplative about life and such. But seriously, walking that trail I realized just how incredible a place this world is. That little spot on the globe is an amazing place, and over thousands of years those soaring canyon walls were carved by water and air! At that moment I felt like I could see history written in those rocks, and I could see the future being created one piece of sediment at a time. I stared in awe for a long time at the canyon walls I felt like I had never truly seen until that moment. 

That night, we dispersed camped again, sleeping under the stars for the second night out near the Subway trailhead. Waking up with the sunrise is one of the most gloriously peaceful things to ever occur, I recommend trying it sometime. Trying to capture the sunrise is another thing entirely, although it is still very peaceful. 

The last day of our trip was spent on as much as we could possibly squeeze in. I have to admit that at this point I was a little frustrated with my watercoloring so when Ellie wanted to paint again I opted for a solo hike. She painted the West Temple while I hiked the Watchman lookout. It's a short hike, and not very strenuous, so I took my time, turning it into a leisurely stroll. I had the trail to myself until I hiked down. And that was glorious. I was able to clear myself of all the accumulated garbage in my thoughts and recenter myself. I read somewhere that dirt has healing properties, and I don't know if that's true scientifically, but I think emotionally and spiritually it definitely does heal. Being outside, being close to the earth, that is where I can feel peace and a closeness to God that I can't find in very many other places. The Watchman hike will forever hold a special place in my heart because of the communion I experienced that day. 

We had time for one more hike, so we speed hiked all three Emerald Pools then ran down to catch the shuttle back to the visitors center (which we barely missed, much to our chagrin...sorry to everyone we almost knocked off the trail in our mad dash down the trail...By the way, Chacos are not meant for running). This trip left me with so many blisters and sunburns it was insane. But I came home so much happier than when I left. Life gets messy, and sometimes you don't know which way is up or left, and taking a step back, even if it's only for a day, will help to recenter and refocus your heart on what's important. 
Until next time.